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IndustriALL decries Belgian company’s union-busting in Turkey

3 January, 2019IndustriALL Global Union has condemned the misuse of Turkish legislation by local management to stop freedom of association and collective bargaining at Belgian-owned polyurethane company, Recticel.

Workers at Recticel’s production facility, in Tuzla, Istanbul, joined IndustriALL’s Turkish affiliate Petrol-Is (the oil, chemical and rubber workers’ union) in 2015, after the Turkish Ministry of Labour decided the union had the legal right to represent workers at the company. 

Recticel, which employs around 8,400 workers in 28 countries, transforms polyurethane into flexible foams, insulation, bedding and automotive seating. 

However, Recticel used an article under the Law on Trade Unions and Collective Labour Agreements to appeal the Ministry of Labour’s decision to the local court, claiming it operates in the metal industry and not chemicals. The appeal against the decision is a common union-busting tactic in Turkey used by employers to delay the collective bargaining process.

Even though the local court confirmed that Recticel operates in the chemical industry, company management has taken the case to the upper level court, violating Recticel’s own ethical code which recognizes the right of workers to join a union, and promises to comply with the laws of all countries where it operates.  

Paradoxically, in Belgium, workers are free to join whichever union they like, and sector activity is not a barrier for trade union representation. 

On a mission to the plant on 27 December 2018, IndustriALL’s assistant general secretary, Kemal Ôzkan, urged Recticel to respect fundamental trade union rights at its factory in Turkey, and recognize Petrol-İş as the legitimate social dialogue and bargaining partner by withdrawing from the legal processes.  

Speaking at a meeting outside the plant, Kemal Özkan said:

“What the management of Recticel has been doing here in Turkey for the past three years is a scandal. They could never operate this way in Belgium. Recticel is shamefully taking advantage of antidemocratic laws to stop workers joining a union.” 

IndustriALL’s Belgian affiliates CSC-BIE and CG-FBTB also reproached Recticel:

“With our tradition of social dialogue in Belgium…we are shocked by your group's behaviour towards our Turkish counterparts from Petrol-Is. We hereby ask you to respect the basic rules of international law as well as your own code of conduct.”

In its response, company management said “the Recticel Group and all its operations all over the world fully respect the legal rights of unions and employees at all levels and we would like to emphasize that applying to the courts regarding the sector of work is Recticel’s legal right.”

Kemal Özkan added: 

“It is our global mission that each and every worker can freely join a union and have the protection of collective bargaining agreement. This must also be the case for Recticel workers. Our international solidarity, together with our Belgian affiliates, will continue until this problem in Turkey has been resolved.”